We’re honored today to feature none other than the “Queen of Splatterpunk”, Christine Morgan!
Christine grew up in the high desert of Southern California, and fled for the cooler rainier climes of the Pacific Northwest as soon as she was of age. She graduated from Humboldt State University with a psychology degree, and has worked in the field of residential psychiatric care ever since (usually on the overnight shift, because it often means she can write on the company clock).
Twice-divorced, and twice a cancer survivor, she currently lives in Portland Oregon, bossed around by three demanding cats as well as the porch-critters she’s taken to feeding.
Dubbed “the Martha Stewart of extreme horror” for her disturbing baked goods and craft projects as well as her stories, she has one now-adult long-suffering daughter who usually wins whenever her friends compete to see who has the weirdest parents.
How does your background in Psychology mesh or contribute to your extreme horror fiction?
It’s funny, I originally (by which I mean as a teenager) figured I’d take the stereotypical “so you want to be a writer” education/career path of majoring in English and then becoming a teacher. Then, my senior year, I took an elective course called ‘Humanology and Psychology’ and all that changed. I realized I was much more interested in learning about personality, behavior, what makes people think or act or react the way they do…and I realized that could lend itself to creating characters and compelling storylines in a way that worked better for me than focusing on the literary classics and other authors and how it was ‘supposed’ to be done. Understanding psychology, what makes us tick, what scares us, what motivates us, is hugely helpful, especially in genres like horror that are driven by emotion and mood.
You have many adoring fans that applaud you as “the Queen of Splatterpunk” or “the Martha Stewart of Horror.” Do you ever feel this limits or “typecasts” you as an author?
If it does, it does; that’s fine with me! I’ve never been happier since finding my home. I like to think I’ve got a solid enough track record in the other areas, like historical and cosmic, to show I have wider range when necessary. Though I do wonder what Martha Stewart herself would have to say about the comparison.
Out of all the possible ideas in your head, what inspired you to write Lakehouse Infernal?
I fell utterly in love with Edward Lee’s Infernal books from the very first page of City Infernal. After reviewing several, and striking up a correspondence with him, he granted permission for me to submit a story I’d written set in that universe (“Matt Brimstone, P.I.,” about a noir-type detective working in the Mephistopolis). One of his books, Lucifer’s Lottery, involves a demonic plot to swap the contents of a freshwater Florida lake with a reservoir in Hell. I found myself wondering what would happen to the area around that lake, the effects it’d have on the environment and ecology and locals, as well as the wider world’s reaction. So I mustered the nerve to ask Lee if I could write it, and he was all in favor of the idea. Thus, Lakehouse Infernal was born.
Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart?
Several of them, actually…I have the tendency to create a large cast of characters, chuck them into situations and scenarios, and see what happens. Often, they surprise me, either by surviving when I thought they wouldn’t, or not surviving when I thought they would, or developing in unexpected ways. From Lakehouse Infernal, I found myself most partial to the bickering dynamic of local residents Heck and Lorlinda Bodean, the hapless pilot who crashes in the area and needs the help of his guardian angel more than ever, and, twisted though it is, the character June, a frustrated spinster who joins a religious pilgrimage to the lake for her own secret personal reasons.
What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
There will indeed be a sequel! I’m currently at work on Warlock Infernal, which picks up directly following, and continues the adventures of the characters who made it through the first one, as well as expanding upon the region around the lake and the drastic changes it undergoes as it falls under, shall we say, new management.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I’m not sure if they quite count as literary pilgrimages per se, but several family vacations were chosen in large part for research or inspiration. Caving trips, for instance; The Horned Ones: Cornucopia involves tourists trapped in a show cave by a disaster, only to find there are other things with them down there in the dark.
We took a cruise to the Yucatan once to observe the spring equinox at Chichen Itza and visit various Mayan ruins; I’ve done several stories inspired by that culture and mythos. And another cruise to Norway, because one of my main passions is Viking-themed horror and dark fantasy (one collection, The Raven’s Table, is out now, while a second, The Wolf’s Feast, will be released later this spring). Being able to view the fjords and landscape in person, being able to stand in the Viking Ship Museum soaking up the atmosphere, and making flatbread at a living-history Iron Age farm, were incredible experiences.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I’m sure it’s possible. Just, to me, doesn’t seem like much fun. As a writer and a reader, the emotions of a story are what I’m there for; if I don’t have reason to care about or feel for the characters, empathize with or despise, what’s the point? I crave intensity, involvement, passion, humor, terror, connection, excitement in my fiction. And I think, especially with genres such as horror or romance (or erotica, hey), emotion is the most vital component. To be able to convey it to a reader requires being able to feel, or at least vicariously imagine, those emotions yourself.
What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
The Ice-Cream Cone Coot and Other Rare Birds by Arnold Lobel. May well have been my first real introduction to what I’d later come to know as bizarro, though Dr. Seuss likely qualifies too (his beginner-book dictionary was like my pre-kindergarten bible). Those are the two earliest, and most pivotal, I can remember.
If you could only have one season, what would it be?
Autumn, definitely. Not a fan of heat or snow. Give me cooler temps, turbulent cloudy skies, changing/falling leaves, Halloween of course, sweaters, harvest time, woodsmoke. Okay, maybe I’m not as crazy about pumpkin spice as I should be, given all that, but I don’t begrudge those who are.
Would you rather live in a haunted mansion or live in a un-haunted cottage?
Really, a haunted cottage would be ideal; just me and the cats and the ghosts and not as much house to take care of. But, if someone else can do the heavy cleaning, a haunted mansion would do. My roommate watches a lot of those paranormal investigation shows and I’m always there wondering why the people don’t try to befriend the spirits more often.
Morning person or Night owl?
Night owl, but then, I’ve mostly worked overnight shifts for 30 years now so it’s not like I’ve got much of a choice. I’m used to it. I like the dark and the quiet. Though it’s sometimes difficult to sleep in the daytime, when everyone else is up and around noisily getting stuff done. And it’s even more difficult when I have to have a meeting or appointment during real-waking-world business hours. Ugh! All that sunlight and traffic and people!
Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
As mentioned above, I’m currently 1/3 or so into Warlock Infernal, having a grand time with it. Also very excited about a couple of other books coming out soon—Birthright, a hard-to-categorize modernish semi-gothic horror with historical and paranormal elements; and Trench Mouth, a totally gonzo deep-sea chompy chompy with mad science and aquatic monsters.
As a woman author, what are you most proud of in bringing into horror literature?
Being part of a movement to stick a collective finger in the eye of the notion that “girls can’t write / don’t do” horror, or are only into “quiet/literary” horror. I am proud to stand with my splatter sisters, dishing the extreme hardcore goods just as well, if not better, than the boys. I recently heard from a reader who gave my splatter western, The Night Silver River Run Red, to his dad…and his aghast dad gave it back, unable to finish, as well as shocked that a woman had written it. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to take that as a compliment, but it’s had me grinning with delight all week!
There seems to be a resurgence in Splatterpunk content and authors. Yet we are in a time in history and society where there are calls for moral (political) correctness, blacklisting and cancel culture. Do you worry your fiction may be misconstrued and targeted by these movements?
Worry? No. It’s easy for the ‘splatter’ part of ‘splatterpunk’ to take precedence, with the gore and the mess and the nastiness…but we shouldn’t forget the ‘punk’ aspect either, the defiance and rebellion and attitude. Genre guru John Skipp has more and better to say on the subject than I ever could, but it’s not just about the grossness. It’s about challenging the norms, breaking the mold, doing what ‘they’ tell you shouldn’t be done. In my experience, most of us who write in this genre welcome the controversy, invite and embrace it. Look at Gina Ranalli, whose latest book All Men Are Trash gets in trouble on social media just for the title alone; she and her publisher knew that going into it, and their stance is basically “yeah? you got a problem? bring it on, come at me bro.” I love that.
Or Chandler Morrison, whose work is shockingly controversial, but he’s one of the best damn authors I have ever run across, and is not about to let the haters slow his roll. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, as long as I’m being true to my love of the craft and myself.
Can you tell us about a woman who inspired you. And tell us why?
Big shout-out to Monica J. O’Rourke, whose solo works as well as her collaborations with Wrath James White more than prove women are certainly capable of getting right down there into the messy nitty-gritty grossness. Several scenes she’s written haunt me to this day, and I don’t even have the body parts involved in some of them! Plus, that fiendish twinkle in her eye…that devilish smile…always right there unabashed and unafraid and daring the world to tell her otherwise.